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Elections Chief Asks Diebold to Pull Ad

Maryland elections administration Linda H. Lamone sent a letter today asking Diebold Elections Systems to remove her name and photograph from a brochure promoting the electronic "poll books," which were blamed for much of the delay that kept lines long and polls open late into the evening in last September's primary.

After critics and a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) suggested that her appearance in the marketing brochure might constitute an ethics violations, Lamone wrote Diebold asking that the firm "immediately discontinue" use of the material.

The brochure, a case study of the poll book's use, includes a picture of Lamone and the following caption:

"Our election judges just love this product, and so do I. We in Maryland are extremely pleased with the performance of the system during the general election." Lamone is pictured in a state office, smiling and flanked by a Maryland flag.

Lamone, a supporter of Diebold's touch-screen voting machines, said yesterday that she allowed the Texas-based company to feature her to give publicity to electronic poll books.

She said she had issued the same praise for the product in a news release after the election and in testimony before a General Assembly committee in January.

"I don't see it as being much different from responding to a question on how the system performed" in November, Lamone said yesterday. She said her intention "was never to endorse the particular product" made by Diebold "but to endorse electronic poll books in general."

Lamone said she was not paid to feature in the brochure, which is being marketed across the country.

But voting rights advocates said there is a conflict of interest because Lamone led Maryland's efforts to purchase touch-screen machines.

"What concerns us is a too-cozy relationship between the administrator and the vendor," said Robert Ferraro of SAVEourVotes. "She's been pushing these Diebold machines all over the country. It's not proper."

Ferraro said his group plans to file a complaint today with the State Ethics Commission.

Jennifer Allgair, assistant general counsel for the commission, declined to comment on Lamone's appearance in the brochure but referred reporters to Section 15-506 of Maryland's code: "An official or employee may not intentionally use the prestige of office or public position for that official's or employee's private gain or that of another."

Lamone, a lawyer, said she contacted the commission yesterday to "seek their guidance" after reporters began calling about the brochure. She declined to say what she learned.

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 28, 2007; 12:26 PM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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